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March 4, 2022 29 mins

Ryan Gorman hosts an iHeartRadio nationwide special featuring Dr. Sarah Stephens, the Network Medication Safety Officer for HonorHealth in Scottsdale, AZ. Dr. Stephens discusses the pandemic's toll on health care workers and our health care system. Also, for Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, we check in with Dr. Sallyann Coleman King, Medical Director of the Colorectal Cancer Control Program at the CDC. 

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Episode Transcript

Available transcripts are automatically generated. Complete accuracy is not guaranteed.
Speaker 1 (00:00):
Welcome to I Heart Radio Communities, a public affairs special
focusing on the biggest issues impacting you this week. Here's
Ryan Gorman. Thanks for joining us here on iHeart Radio Communities.
I'm Ryan Gorman, and we have some important conversations lined
up for you. In a moment, I'll talk to a
healthcare professional about the toll the pandemic has taken on
healthcare workers across the country, along with lessons learned about

how COVID nineteen impacted our health care system and worth
things stand right now when it comes to the spread
of the virus. Then I'll talk to Dr Sally and
Coleman King, medical director of the Correctal Cancer Control Program
at the c d C, for Correctal Cancer Awareness Month.
Right now. To get things started, I'm joined by Dr
Sarah Stevens, the Network Medication Safety Officer for Honor Health

in Scottsdale, Arizona. Dr Stevens, thanks so much for coming
on the show. And let's start with the big picture
overview of where we are with the spread of the
virus right now. Well, I mean I think everyone is uh,
you know, breathing us every east. It feels a lot
better to focus probably because where we were at with,
you know, so enormously overwhelming, and so for that it's awesome. UM.

What we're trying to get out there and communicate that is,
although omicron cases have declined greatly and we're seeing some relief,
we still have a pretty large number of cases happening
across the world and in our country, and so we're
still promoting fascination to prevent you know, additional hospitalizations and
death and also to prevent the spread of any new

variants that might come about as the virus you know,
does its thing across our country. So so important to
protect yourself. But thank goodness, it does not feel the
same as it did a year ago. Right. Would you
say we're at the back end of the macron wave, Yeah,
I mean I think we are. We're definitely seeing some

relief in our hospitals. Um, in our health systems. Are
cases are you know, we were at you laughing about it, M.
We're not really laughing about it, but discussing that. You know,
when when COVID first started, when we hit the number
of cases we have currently it on our health we
were starting to get nervous. And now we're breathing this
huge sign of release because our you know, our numbers
are custom network have come down significantly, so I think

our hospitalized cases we're definitely on that downward, downward trend.
But as we've seen previously, this disease is pretty unpredictable.
Despite what we think we know, we do get surprised.
So we're hoping that we don't see a new variant
that becomes predominant that are that our treatments are less
effective for So again, just um, you know, really really

working with you know, our staff, are community, our kids, everyone,
to ensure vaccination is is prominent in the community. Is
is really key and in keeping this at bay and
reducing it further. Based on what you've seen throughout the
course of this pandemic, how would you compare the different
wave that we've experienced. We had that initial wave when

the virus first hit, then we had that wave towards
the end of around the holidays, than Delta, than oh Macron,
How did they compare? In your opinion? Um, they compared
and that they were all really difficult. I mean, I mean,
the simplest way to say it is all of them.

I mean, just I am coming at this from healthcare perspective,
and I'm not a frontline health worker that was really
dealing with a day to day patient care, but as
a leader and a health system, I mean, they were
all incredibly challenging. The first wave though, was all about
what do we do with this, How we don't have supplies,
we we we don't know much about the virus, how

do we contain it, you know, and and how do
we stop it completely? And and that's sort of more
wave after wave of you know, Then we're how do
we get everyone vaccinated? Then we have some treatment that
a varying effective miss you know, and our supply chain improved,
so we have masks now, but but we may not
have the treatments. And so it's really been i don't know,

putting out fire after fire and then being very nimble
and able to pivot with new challenges continuously. So once
one thing resolved, a new one presented itself. And and
that's still continuing now, although it's it feels like we're
we're into more of a I guess, day to day
management of crisis that feels um feels more like normal.

I guess if if you could say that, um, I
do think now the focus has shifted less about keeping
people out of the hospital, because we're seeing those rates
come down and we're not overwhelming our health care systems
like we did it the excuse me at the beginning.
So now it's really a shift of we need to continue, um,
you know, promoting prevention strategies so that that doesn't happen

again and so that we can you know, completely keep
this thing at day to being endemic in our society,
but not something that we're worried about. Um will you know,
hospitalized or or result and death for thousands and thousands
of Americans. I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by Dr Sarah Stevens,

the Network Medication Safety Officer for Honor Health in Scottsdale, Arizona,
where of course talking about the state of the pandemic
those you work within the healthcare sector through those different waves,
especially you know, after the vaccines started to roll out,
then we get hit with Delta. Then after that, Oh Macron,

what kind of told did that take on those in
the healthcare profession. Well, that's that's a really great question. Um,
it continues to be quite overwhelming. We um, you know,
a year ago when I mean we're finishing up our
vaccination pot around this time. Last year, UM, the one
I was part of with on our Health, we vaccinated

about fifty thousand people and it was the most incredible,
hopeful time and most memorable part of all of our careers.
We we talked about it to this day like that,
the hope and you know, the way that we all
came together for a single cause to help vaccinate the
masses was incredible, you know. And then we all saw

what happened after the vaccine came out and the controversy
and you know, any and all types of information out
there everywhere that we're confusing people, making them fearful, you know.
And I have great empathy for people who are you know,
afraid of a certain treatment um and how they were
approved and you know, trying to understand the science behind

things without maybe the knowledge or expertise of of how
that all works. I mean, it's it was really hard
to navigate less of information coming at folks. So then
we had that kind of backlash, it felt like almost
and I think that took a real tool on our
health care providers. And then it was a small percentage
of healthcare providers you know that we're sort of um,

you know, against that scenes uncomfortable with it. Definitely didn't
feel comfortable with being mandated to do so or not
by any authority. So I mean it just got a
little perry, just to put it lightly, for all of
us that really we're just trying to improve that they
being care of our patients, and so it's been a

lot to maneuver. But um, I think we are coming
out on the other side where we can think less
about this and more about what we used to think
about every day as healthcare professionals. UM. But I do
see it still taking a toll. We have, you know,
staffing shortages across the board. We hear a lot about nursing,
but it is impacting not only nursing, UM, but you know,

pharmacy is impacted greatly laugh you know, PP, respiratory therapy.
I mean, there's all sorts of professions that are short
staff and people that are just making the decision largely
to get out of healthcare because of the stressors. So
it is difficult. UM. I have hope that two will
bring us some some good stuff. But as leaders especially,

we're trying really hard to work on staff resiliency and
how to make the people you have so valued and
UM offloads some work so that they don't feel so
overwhelmed and stressed. Because even though our COVID patients have
gone down UM, there's still a lot of a lot
of other patients that you care for and within the

region that you work in. Were there any moments during
the course of this pandemic where you weren't sure if
your health care system in particular was going to hold
you know, I I don't recall a point where, you know,
on our health was at that point. There were definitely
long days, long nights, and a lot of contingency planning

UM that took place. But we've we were fortunate enough
to I think stay ahead of what was coming UM
by various metrics. We were kind of following UM and
our ability to you know, resource UM, leverage you know,
some federal resources as well UM, and and keep on

top of our supplies where we did. Okay, that doesn't
mean the staff didn't feel like it was ground zero
for a bit, but I we were never at the
brink of like closing a facility or things like that,
but we definitely were monitoring for like contingency planning UM
and other levels of you know, when it is care

we were definitely looking at daily like do we have
the resources and supplies and ability to safely enough care
for patients or do we have to consider that? And
we never had to close or anything like that, but
we did have to reduce our capacity because of staffing
UM in this last wave and such. So it made
it really hard UM because you couldn't care for everybody

that you wanted to. I'm Ryan Gorman, joined by Dr
Sarah Stevens, the Network Medication Safety Officer for Honor Health
in Scottsdale, Arizona. Are there lessons that you've learned through
this experience and your colleagues have learned through this experience
that you think, even if we're not in the middle

of a pandemic, we'll be able to apply some of
those lessons to everyday health care. Yeah, I guess I
don't know. I've gone I've gone through the taks some
values of the pandemic, just like everybody else in this
in this country. But my main takeaway is really is
really emphathy. I think there there was a long stretch

of time where when people had differing point of views,
we you know, on this UM, it was really easy
for health care to dismiss people who didn't believed that
we didn't feel believe in the science around back to
nat Shan and preventative strategies and that sort of thing,
because it's like no brainer to us, like come on,
why aren't you all on board? Um? And now I've

really spent time ruminating about the why behind quite a
few people that are still to this day uncomfortable with
vaccination and the prevention strategies that we've outlined in the
CDC's outlined UM. So I try to come at it
with a place in a from a place of kindness,

and I just I really, from the bottom of my heart,
want people that feel comfortable with what the recommendations are.
So that is my takeaway is the empathy. UM. As
far as from a health system standpoint or healthcare perspective standpoint,
I think the takeaway is really UM preparations. I think

as a country, we were not as prepared as we
should have been, and UM, we were not adhering to
the warning thought signs that we keep so that we
saw coming. And that's a huge lesson learned on. This
pandemic really showed us all of our whole right, all
of the weaknesses that we actually were there and we
didn't pack upon So that would be the other takeaway.

But I think I think we all learned that together, right.
Going back to the vaccine issue for a moment, because
you have some people maybe they've gotten two doses of
the m RNA vaccine and they're contemplating whether or not
to go and get that booster shot. Maybe some who
haven't been vaccinated up to this point think that with

the oh maicron wave coming down, why bother what would
you say to them about the vaccines, the booster shots, uh,
those different forms of protection against COVID nineteen. Um, you
for sure needs the vaccination and you for sure need
the booster shot if you're here in the age groups

at that up prize. UM, we know the f fiveness
is much greater with that booster it's really needed. UM.
I think eventually we'll see that it's just a three
shot series and that's what's going to be required, and
it's an adult to be to be considered fully vaccinated.
I get people's opinion that you know, the cases they
are coming down, we probably are close to her immunity

with everyone that's been infected or is vaccinated, like why
should I bother, especially those who are maybe fearful of injections,
don't want to deal with feelings kind of junky for
a couple of days because usually there's you know, you
feel a little sick after after getting your COVID vaccination.
I get it. However, um, we have data, really good data.
Right if you're when you compare vaccinated versus unvaccinated, those

who are unvaccinated are five times more likely to even
get COVID. And I know that people that are vaccinated
can get it, but if you are not vaccinated, you're
five terms more likely to get it. You're like sixteen
times more likely to get hospitalized when you get it,
and then you're close to like seventy times more likely
to die. So those are not great odds. And then

I would also encourage people to really consider if you
if you want to risk infection to provide yourself with immunity,
you're not only at higher risk of the hospitalization and death.
But the long COVID and long COVID is something we're
still learning about. We don't know what this disease will
do to people long term, but we already know that

there are people that have long term issues with taste,
with smell, with breathing abnormalities, also mental health conditions brain fog, depression, anxiety.
There are things that this disease is doing to people
that we don't yet fully understand. So why risk that UM?
I would I would much prefer, you know, a couple

of days of a low grade fever and general feeling
yucky to have any chance at preventing UM. What the
sudies can do to you if you're infected. M Ryan
Gorman joined by Dr Sarah Stevens, the Network Medication Safety
Officer for Honor Health in Scottsdale, Arizona. There have been

a number of changes to recommendations when it comes to
wearing masks and things like that. What can you tell
us about those changes? What do people need to know
because I think there's been quite a bit of confusion.
Do masks work, Which masks work? When should we wear them?
What's the latest guidance on all of that. I would

recommend people lean on the CDC for their recommendations. They've
been pretty great about modifying recommendations and they did so
recently to better reflect what's going on in society and
what we know about the current spread UM and issues
with UM you know, overwhelming hospitals or not, and the

impact of society. So their recommendations now are generally mastering
is not needed except for in areas where you know
there are certain other factors, are certain other metrics that
are met, and they're including things now UM such as
what's your hospital capacity UM for COVID patients and that

sort of thing. We know maps help reduce the spread.
They're not acent, but they are effective in helping reduce
the spread of both people are wearing a mask, then
your risk of transmission is much lower, So we do
know that, and I think there's vulnerable patient populations that
you know, based on your own personal risk tolerance, you
may want to wear a mask because vaccines aren't as

effective in you because you're compromised, or maybe you did
have a true contraindication to their vaccine, things like that. UM.
I think we're at a point now where omicron is
so transmissible we're likely all kind of come in contact
with it in some capacity at some point, and so
your own risk tolerance protecting yourself to the best of

your ability, and vaccines really are the number one way
to do that. And I think that's what you have
to consider, and some people will choose to wear a mask,
but I think it's wise that the CDC has lessoned
that given what we're seeing now with with COVID rates, UM,
and what our society looks like now after vaccines and
massive rates as sections across the country. Any advice to

parents who are trying to decide whether or not children
they have who are of age to receive the vaccine
should get vaccinated. Yeah, I mean my advice to parents
is to get your your child vaccinated. Um. We we
have good data. I you know, I spent my I'm
a pharmacist by training and a medication safety officer specialists,

so my job is to ensure safeties of medications. And
when you look at the data and how these vaccines
came to market and also how the post market surveillance
is ongoing, I feel really comfortable with the safety of
these vaccines in children. UM. It's it's something to certainly

consider and get done or your child to again prevent
the risk of hospitalization and death in a very unpredictable disease.
It appears that kids do fare a little better than adults.
But just in January alone, there were like two million
COVID cases and kids, so it's it's happening for sure,
and setting up your kid for success, right, giving them

the best shot at avoiding a severe issue and potential
long term complication that we don't yet know of when
you get the disease. I think it's really important. And
finally we'll have you look into your crystal ball here
and give us your thoughts on the future with COVID.
Is this a situation where you think we're in a
need vaccine boosters every year like flu shots or how

do you see this playing out, especially over the next
few months. I hope not. I guess well, it remains
to be seen, of course, because we're all, you know,
undergoing all of this research in real time. But I
have I'm not an immunologist, but I have heard immunologists
speak about our memory cells um that the m R

and A vaccines are are basically utilizing for the immunogenicity
with UM with how the vaccines work against COVID, and
those those memory cells are are really robust and helpful,
and it's possible that you wouldn't need an annual shot,
just like some of our other vaccines are not needed annually,

so we'll see. UM. I hope not, but it's possible.
I also think, UM, you know, if if we don't
do a good job with with vaccination rates to prevent
new variants from emerging, right, because the more the vaccine
report starry not vaccine, the more the the infection or
COVID goes from person to person and effects those, the

more likely it is to mutate and become more virulent. Potentially, UM,
we may need a totally different vaccine to be effective
against that. I think we got lucky with omicron that
are vACC seen what's still effective, but it's possible something
could change and then it's not, and then we have
to pivot and figure out a whole new strategy. And
I'm really hoping that that doesn't happen and that UM

next year, we're just kind of living with this and
we're all still protected, at least those who have been
back to needed. Dr Sarah Stevens, the Network Medication Safety
Officer for Honor Health in Scottsdale, Arizona, with some insight
into the healthcare profession during this pandemic and the latest
on COVID nineteen and the COVID nineteen vaccines Dr Stevens,
thanks so much for coming on the show. Really appreciate it.

You're very welcome. This month is correctal cancer Awareness Month,
and experts say that it's never been more important for
men and women to routinely get screened for this disease.
Colorectal cancer is the second leading cancer killer, but it
can be preventable with routine screening. Unfortunately, too many people
have put off these screenings, especially during COVID nineteen. The

Center for Disease Control and Prevention has a campaign called
Screen for Life to urge people to get screened for
colorectal cancer. Joining us to talk about this issue is
Dr Sallyann Coleman King. She's medical director of the Colorectal
Cancer Control Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Thank you so much, Dr Coleman King for joining us today.

I'm happy to do with you. Thank you. I don't
know that anyone is all that excited talk about colorectal
cancer and screening, but this is a really important health
issue for our country. Why should people pay attention to
colorectal cancer and screening for it. Well, I don't know
where I am, but I have to admit that I've
loved talking about color. It's just an important topic and

I feel like we should all be talking more about
it because the more we talk about it, the more
people will recognize the importance of screening and marches National
coorrectal cancer Awareness on So this is the perfect time
to be talking about it because, like you said, unfortunately,
colortal cancer is still a serious problem in our country.
It's the second leading cancer killer in the nation for
men and women. But the good news is that we

can prevent it with routine screenings because these screenings can
help find those pre cancers polyps before they've become cancerous,
and screening can also find cancers early when the treatment
works bested. For corectal cancer, screening is particularly important because
with colorectal cancer, people don't always have symptoms, and that's
why we have the Screen for Life campaign is to

encourage people to then talk with their doctors about screening
and wind a big push for screening now doesn't have
to do in part with the pandemic. Well, it's always
an important for people to get screen regularly for colorectal cancer, Ryan,
but for two things have happened that makes the need
for people to get screened, especially critical right now. The
first is that colorectal screenings have dropped over the past

two years during COVID nineteen and as you can imagine,
many of us delayed getting screening during the pandemic and
instead of just focus on our urgent health care needs
and procedures, and that means there are a lot of
people who should have been screened in that just didn't
do it. And the second reason is that because experts,
let's the US Preventive Services Task Force is now recommending

that people get screened earlier. So now recommending that people
start getting screened at age forty five, and that's a
full five years earlier than we were recommending in the past.
The recommendation needs to be to get screened after age fifty,
So there are millions of people out there between the
ages of forty five and fifty who may not know
that they're supposed to start getting screened for colorectal cancer.

This is Correctal Cancer Awareness Month. I'm Ryan Gorman and
I'm joined right now by Dr Sally Anne Coleman King.
She's medical director of the Correctal Cancer Control Program at
the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Now that you're
getting people's attention about how they should get screened for
colorectal cancer, what specifically should they do well, if you're

forty five or older, male or female, you should talk
with your doctor about getting screens for colorectal cancer. It
can truly save your life. And I recommend people should
call their doctor even today and set up an appointment
to talk about their options for routine screening tests. They
have to work with their doctor to decide which test
is exactly right for them, and it's important to know
that there are a range of options for screening. They

include stool based tests which can be done at home,
flexible sigmoidoscopy, colonoscopy, and CT colinoscopy. And of course it's
always important to remind people to keep in mind that
if you if you have at any point notice a
change in your bowel habits, blood in your stool, or
abdominal pains, aches or cramps that don't go away, you
should always contact your doctor. Also so maybe be at

higher risk for colorectal cancer if they had in slammatory
bow disease, a genetic syndrome, or personal family history of
colorectal cancer a polyps and this could mean they need
to be screened earlier than age forty five and more often.
So that's why talking with your doctor is so important.
People can also learn more about visiting our Screen for
Life website. It's not at CDC dot gov screen for

Life which is all in work. This website has information
on how you can prevent colorectal cancer and ways to
encourage others to get screened. And again that CDC dot
dov slash screen for Life all in order? And is
it colonoscopy? The only way to get screened for colorectal
cancer isn't that the one where you got to drink
that bad tasting medicine the day before the test and

then things get really interesting after you drink it. Well,
there are several options for screening, including stool tests which
can be done at home and as well as colinoscopies
and other procedures. That's why you need to talk with
your doctor this side which test is best for you
and Ryan keep in mind that every screening test you
or your doctor choose will need some sort of prep,
whether it's making the appointment or the actual exam itself.

Um also also keep in mind that if your doctor
finds something a little unusual or irregular in any of
your initial screenings, they may recommend a colonoscopy to get
more information about what's going on. But when you're thinking
about a colonoscopy, um, you just schedule the test prepare
for the day before. But then it's important to take
a little time off and work the day of the colonosophy.

But I have to say this is how I look
at it. Just a day or to planning and prep
and then that gives me long term peace of mind,
and then I've done my part in keeping my body healthy. Absolutely,
this is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month. I'm Ryan Gorman, joined
by Dr Sally and Coleman King. She's medical director of
the Colorectal Cancer Control Program at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention. You've spoken a couple of times about

how people should get screens starting at age forty five,
and that they should get screened routinely. It's not a
one and done thing, is it. How frequently should people
be getting screened? That's absolutely right. One of the most
important things resulting now is that they should start routine
screening at age forty five, and then they should continue

getting screened at regular intervals. How frequently those screenings should
take place is something that you and your doctor will discussed.
For some people that could be ten years between screening,
and for others with the family history of colorectal cancer
or who have more pre cancerous poleps, it may be
more off. And what about people who have no family
history of colorectal cancer? Does this guidance apply to them?

I'm so glad you asked. Yes. Absolutely, everyone forty five
years of age and older should get screened for colorectal cancer.
And you need to get screened even if you have
no family history. And actually most colorrectal cancers occur in
people with no family history of the disease. And and
are some people or groups more at risk for colorectal cancer? Yeah,

some groups are more impacted than others. And with these
differences is mine we see African Americans and Hispanics have
a higher rate of death from colorectal cancer unfortunately. But
also as we think about risk factors for colorectal cancer,
it's important to consider things that can be changed, and
those are lifestyle factors that may make you at higher
risk for colorrectal cancer. These include things like lack of

physical activity, a diet low and fruits and vegetables, a
low fiber, high fat diet, or a diet high end
processed meats, obesity or being overweight, alcohol consumption and tobacco.
US and people may need to be screened earlier more
often if they have inflammatory bow disease, genetic syndromes, or
a personal or family history of colorectal cancer or polyps.

Now you said there are no There are often no
symptoms for colorectal cancer. But are there things that people
should be watching for. Yes, people should contact their doctor
if they notice a change in bowel habits, blood in
their stool, or abdominal pains or aches and cramps that
just don't go away. All right, Thank you so much
for taking the time to break all of this down
for us again, Dr Sally and Coleman King from the

c d C one more time, Can you tell us
about the Screen for Life websites with all the information
on getting screened for colorectal cancer? Absolutely. The website is
CDC dot gov slash screen for Lights and that's all
one word, and it has information on how people can
prevent colorectal cancer and ways to encourage others to get screened.

But here's the thing that I really want your listeners
to remember. If you're forty five or older, male or female,
talk with your doctor about getting screened for colorectal cancer.
It can save your life. All right. Dr Sally Anne
Coleman King again, medical director of the Colorectal Cancer Control
Program at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. This
is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the website one more

time is c DC dot gov slash Screen for Life.
Dr Coleman King, thank you so much for your time
and for breaking that down for us. We really appreciate it.
Thank you, Ryan, thanks for having me. All Right, that's
going to do it for this edition of I Heeart
Radio Communities. As we wrap things up, I want off
our big thanks to all of our guests and of
course to all of you for listening. I'm Ryan Gorman.

We'll be back, same time, same place next weekend. Stay safe,
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